Governor McKee, Rhode Island Department of Education Launch LEAP District Support Program

Published on Tuesday, November 02, 2021

WOONSOCKET, RI — The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), joined by Governor Dan McKee, the Chairs of the Rhode Island General Assembly’s Education Committees Senator Sandra Cano and Representative Joe McNamara, Woonsocket School District Superintendent Patrick J. McGee, and other state school district leaders, today announced the new Learning, Equity, and Accelerated Pathways (LEAP) District Support Program, a 2-year program to support the state’s districts that were disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and align their post-pandemic recovery efforts to the recommendations of the LEAP Task Force. Program participants will be eligible for matching funds from a pool of more than $20 million to invest in programs that will accelerate student learning in the coming years, as well as specialized supports. 

“As we emerge from the pandemic, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a more prosperous, equitable, and resilient Rhode Island, especially when it comes to our students and their education,” said Rhode Island Governor Dan McKee. “This new program is a crucial investment in the futures of our students and our state. I am proud to work alongside the local education leaders who are working hard to develop plans that meet the needs of their unique school districts. We all have a role to play in this recovery.” 

“Long before the pandemic, Rhode Island has suffered from disparate outcomes for students across the state, and this is our moment to address those inequities,” said Rhode Island Senate Education Chair and LEAP Task Force Member Sandra Cano. “Throughout our discussions in the LEAP Task Force, we saw evidence that the least-funded districts had the students who needed the most support. This program will empower local communities to provide for those students in entirely new ways.” 

“The unprecedented challenges to education presented by the pandemic demand innovative solutions,” said Rhode Island House of Representatives Education Chair and LEAP Task Force Member Joseph McNamara. “This cross-government, statewide collaboration will help us address the impact of the pandemic on student learning and bolster our education system for years to come. I look forward to working together with leaders across the state on this unified response.” 

Over two years, the LEAP District Support Program will support districts in accelerating learning post-pandemic through a multistep process that will dovetail the LEAP Task Force findings, RIDE’s 2021-2025 Strategic Plan, and the state’s District Accountability legislation to provide a centralized support mechanism for school districts. Eligible districts will have access to matching funding, ranging from $1.4 million to $4 million, from RIDE to invest in targeted district improvement efforts, a designated LEAP District Support Fellow to support the work, workshops and professional development through the Center for Education Policy and Research at Harvard University’s Proving Ground program, support with data analysis and disaggregation, and specific supports tailored to each districts’ needs.

“The LEAP District Support Program is an opportunity to collaborate and work together to ensure districts severely impacted by the pandemic succeed,” said Rhode Island Commissioner of Education Angélica Infante-Green. “This statewide plan, aligned to the findings of the experts, community leaders, and educators who comprised the LEAP Task Force, will help us to remedy those inequities and accelerate learning for the students most in need. Together, we can make every school in Rhode Island a center for learning and growth.” 

“We need to address the impact the pandemic has had on our children’s learning, and it starts with supporting district leaders,” said Rhode Island Board of Education Chair Barbara Cottam. “This program will direct both resources and professional development to the schools where it will be most effective. I am grateful to every education leader who is working with us to make this happen.” 

Eligible districts for the support program include Central Falls, East Providence, Johnston, Newport, North Providence, Pawtucket, Providence, Warwick, West Warwick, and Woonsocket. These districts were selected through a composite index composed of the following categories associated with pandemic impact: COVID-19 health metrics; academic performance; population of students from historically underserved student groups; and school climate and student wellbeing. The eligible districts serve over 60,000 students, have the highest concentration of multilingual learners in the state, more than double the national average of differently-abled students identified, and have a density of poverty in excess of 70%.  

The programs and supports included in the District Support Program will help to address the issues faced by historically-underserved groups - Black and Latino students, multilingual learners, differently-abled students, and students living in poverty - through the strategies identified in the LEAP Task Force report. 

“Teachers in Woonsocket and every district like it will tell you that our kids are incredible, but so many of them need unique resources to be able to reach their full academic potential,” said Woonsocket Superintendent Patrick McGee. “The District Support Program will let us address the disparities in resources and support that have undermined student achievement in our district for generations. My district’s educators and students alike will benefit from this.” 

Eligible districts will begin planning for this work with RIDE within the next couple weeks. RIDE will work with districts throughout the rest of the year to prepare for the roll-out of the new strategic planning system and to finalize the long-term action plans for districts’ core investment areas, with implementation of action plans scheduled for June 2022.  

Proving Ground, an initiative housed at the Center for Education Policy Research (CEPR) at the Harvard Graduate School for Education that works with school districts to improve student achievement by applying proven improvement methods to help districts identify and test evidence-based solutions to key challenges, will launch the introduction to its Superintendent Institute, as well as the first of the nine workshops and professional development sessions for participating districts, over the next month.